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Why Black people are turning to gardening during difficult times

Laura Jazmin Tolliver-Jackson
USA TODAY Network - Florida

Gardening isn’t unfamiliar territory in Black history. Black Americans have been cultivators of plants for generations, from having to tend the crops on plantations to diving into both gardening and farming as a means of accessing fresh food and vegetables. Even as slaves, after being forced to work sunrise to sunset, African Americans found locations where they could grow plants and food to help supplement a struggling diet.

The relationship between Black people and gardening has transformed and taken on different meanings including a representation of trauma. A 2018 thesis by Matthew Goodrid at the University of the Pacific explains that “the environmental trauma that African Americans have experienced in outdoor settings throughout American history” along with other factors, like a lack of representation for Blacks across markets, has birthed the false notion and cultural misconception that Black people don’t have a connection to nature via indoor and outdoor green spaces.

Exposure to plants and green spaces while gardening can be beneficial to mental and physical health and may serve as a way to find peace during difficult times. Simply viewing plants can reduce stress, fear, anger, sadness, blood pressure, pulse rate and muscle tension, according to one 2018 study.

People of color are using their green thumbs to reconnect during difficult times and finding a form of solace that can be achieved right in your backyard or at a local community gardening center.

Combine the following Black mental health resources in tandem with gardening to create a healthy space that enhances your peace:

Therapy for Black Girls

Black Men Heal

Black Girls Smile

Healing Black Women

Healing While Black

National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network

Brother You’re on My Mind

Melanin and Mental Health

Black Mental Health Alliance

Unapologetically Us

Black Mental Wellness

Find peace in the garden

Many times Black people “keep on keeping on” and push past the limit leading to a vicious cycle that’s damaging to mental and physical health. From disproportionately being affected by the coronavirus to being subjected to racial profiling to being killed as unarmed citizens, Black Americans need an outlet for finding peace in an unceasing world.

“There is so much heaviness going on in the world. From Ahmaud Arbery to George Floyd to Breyonna Taylor, there are so many heavy things on my heart,” said Michelle Fletcher, an urban gardener and owner of a Tower Garden, a digital company that supplies vertical, aeroponic tower gardens to help gardeners grow their own greens and herbs indoors.

“I’m a Black woman and I feel it deep down in my heart. Since we all can’t connect because of the quarantine, gardening has been something that has been able to distract me from everything that is going on right now.”

Since our society hasn’t been structured to promote the growth of people of color, nor black entrepreneurship, gardening can be a pathway to tranquility and ownership. Being in control of your own food source, especially during a time of coronavirus food shortages, is empowering.

“Growing your own plants offers a sense of security. I get so much joy every time I look outside and see that ‘wow, I’m growing these plants and they’re flourishing’,” said Fletcher. Growing herbs and plants is not only an economic win for Black culture but it’s also a representation of our own desire to flourish and “grow” among society despite racial push back.

Tower Garden Montage from Healthy Living Revolution on Vimeo.

Getting down and dirty in the garden is a fun, relaxing way to get your blood pumping by increasing your endorphins and improving your mood, which can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety making it a great coping mechanism.

Connect in your community

Don’t want to garden alone? Discover your gardening tribe online.

Jasmine Jefferson, the creator of Black Girls With Gardens, recognized the lack of gardening resources for women of color and decided to create her own digital hub of knowledge.

“I was interested in gardening but wasn’t connected with anyone else outside of my family. It all started with a social media handle as I was looking for someone of color to talk to about plants. About a week after creating @blackgirlswithgardens, I realized that Black gardening resources are something that’s needed globally and there are others like myself,” said Jefferson.

Black Girls With Gardens provides tips and inspiration to women of color interested in planting to place value on representation and to create a space for like-minded women to support each other and connect with their ancestral environmental background.

“Gardening helps with anxiousness and can be a technique for therapy. Gardening is the only time outside of everything that’s going in the world where I can mindlessly just ‘be.’ I can unclench my jaw, relax my shoulders, and just sit there and water the plants without thinking about anything else, “ said Jefferson. “Our minds need that rest.”

Whether you’re a newbie, looking to create a luscious green sanctuary in your home, or just want to connect with other plant connoisseurs, there are resources to help you build meaningful relationships with other Black gardeners. Here are links to help get you started:

Black Girls With Gardens

You Grow Girl

Black People With Plants

Brown Mamas

The Black Gardeners

Edible Gardening By Black Girls With Gardens

Blackmenwithgardens

Blackwithplants

If gardening in the blistering Florida heat isn’t your deal, consider buying and cultivating indoor plants from these Black-owned plant companies:

Planting with a P

Grounded

Natty Garden

Isha Plants

Tennessee Tropicals

The Zen Succulent